Lazy Caturday Reads

Vladimir Rumyantzev

Illustration by ladimir Rumyantzev

Happy Caturday!!

After an insane week of Republican tantrums, Kevin McCarthy is finally Speaker of the House. But it doesn’t sound like he’ll have much control over his caucus. He seems to have given in to all of their demands in order to have a title with very little power. It was an embarrassing week for the Republican Party and for the country, capped by a scene in which Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama and Matt Gaetz of Florida nearly came to blows.

Benjy Sarlin, Kadia Goba, and Shelby Talcott at Semaphor: Kevin McCarthy finally became Speaker of the House after one last shocking meltdown. Here’s how it all happened.

McCarthy and his allies confidently predicted he would be elected Speaker of the House Friday night after a breakthrough in negotiations earlier in the day that saw 15 holdouts abandon their opposition.

The expectation was a critical mass of remaining holdouts would switch sides or vote present to seal his inevitable election as speaker.

Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo. earned wild applause when she voted “present” for the first time, helping lower the threshold for a McCarthy win — just as his team had hoped would happen.

Members did the same for Rep. Wesley Hunt, R-Texas, who had flown back from tending to his wife and newborn premature baby in order to attend the crucial vote, and Ken Buck, R-Colo., who had rushed back from Colorado after undergoing a medical procedure.

But four holdouts, including a freshman from Arizona, Eli Crane, voted for other candidates. Then, after deliberately skipping his initial vote, Gaetz waited to the end of the roll call to vote “present” — leaving McCarthy one vote short.

Pandemonium ensued. An enraged Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala. had to be physically restrained as he charged to confront Gaetz with the C-SPAN cameras rolling.

Back to the Semaphor article:

Afterwards, a stunned Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., who had just nominated McCarthy and was seen animatedly working Gaetz over during the vote, took to the podium to ask that the House be allowed to adjourn until Monday.

As members tried to get their bearings, President Trump placed quick calls ahead of the 15th ballot — just before midnight — to Reps. Andy Biggs, who had voted for Rep. Jim Jordan, and Gaetz, a source familiar with the situation told Semafor.

Another photo from earlier showed Marjorie Taylor Greene trying to reach a holdout after the failed vote, Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Montana with a phone call from a “DT” as Rosendale appeared to rebuff her.

In the next ballot, more holdouts voted “present” and McCarthy was finally elected to thunderous applause and deep sighs of relief, completing his long rise through leadership across three presidential administrations.

Cat in the evening on the bench birds, Paul Kulsha2

Cat in the evening on the bench with birds, Paul Kulsha2

I stayed up until the bitter end, but I nodded off a few times and somehow I missed the fight scene. What I saw was Matt Gaetz approaching McCarthy, after which McCarthy rushed to the voting table to change his vote to no on adjournment. McCarthy looked thrilled after he finally won the 15th vote, but what did he actually win?

Sahil Kapur at NBC News: How Kevin McCarthy got the votes for speaker — and why it could haunt him.

After four days of deadlock and embarrassing defeats not seen in a century, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy finally carved out a path to placate a faction of rebels and secure the job early Saturday, with promises that could come back to haunt him.

McCarthy flipped 14 of his holdouts and convinced the rest to stand down, securing election as the 53rd speaker of the House on the 15th ballot after overcoming a last-minute wrench that scuttled his best-laid plans on the previous ballot. In doing so, he made a series of concessions that weaken the power of his office and expand the clout of far-right members of the House Republican conference, which critics say could complicate his job of governing under a wafer-thin majority.

McCarthy and his allies sensed they were on the verge of a breakthrough on Thursday night after Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., and others tapped by the now-speaker met with a group of right-wing holdouts — including Reps. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Chip Roy of Texas and Byron Donalds of Florida. The mutiny was led by members of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, which is known for wielding raw power and having a high tolerance for chaos to force House GOP leaders to bend to their wishes.

McCarthy’s team presented them with a “framework” of House rules changes and other promises that would appease the group — and that ultimately prompted six House members to vote “present,” a crucial move that lowered the threshold for a majority and paved the way for him to succeed….

Perry, the Freedom Caucus chairman, said Friday he decided to vote for McCarthy after that framework was put on the table. But he also made clear his support for McCarthy was conditional on the terms of the deal holding up.

The concessions were mostly about the Rules Committee.

The Republican rules package released Friday includes those concessions. It will allow any one member to force a “motion to vacate” the speaker’s chair and overthrow McCarthy. It makes it harder for the House to raise spending, taxes and the debt limit. And Perry said the agreement includes “conservative representation” across the House, including by adding members of the right flank to key committees.

Perry and Roy declined to divulge details, but two sources with knowledge told NBC News that the Freedom Caucus was demanding three seats on the powerful Rules Committee, which controls the bills that make it to the House floor…

Irina Zeniuk2

Illustration by Irina Zeniuk

The deal is poised to enhance the power of far-right Republicans, at the expense of moderates who want to advance legislation that can win the approval of a Democratic-controlled Senate and President Joe Biden. It could make McCarthy’s task of passing must-do bills like funding the government and lifting the debt ceiling much harder under a slim majority if a group of five Republicans can effectively force him out at any time.

Still, the more moderate or mainstream Republicans put up little resistance to the pact that party leaders agreed to, with some accepting it as the cost of doing business under narrow margins….

Democrats say the reported concessions will make the House ungovernable and cause crises.

“What we’re seeing is the incredibly shrinking speakership,” former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in an interview Friday. “It is not a good thing for the House of Representatives. We are the people’s house. We have to negotiate with the Senate. We have to negotiate with the White House. And instead, we are diminishing the leadership role of the House.”

More details at the NBC link.

According to Kyle Cheney at Politico, McCarthy also has agreed to give unprecedented powers to Rep. Jim Jordan, who will be the chair of the Judiciary Committee: Proposed GOP select panel would be empowered to review ‘ongoing criminal investigations.’

A proposed subcommittee to investigate “weaponization” of the federal government — a key demand of House conservatives who delivered Speaker Kevin McCarthy the gavel — would be given sweeping investigatory powers that include explicit authority to review “ongoing criminal investigations.”

The language of the proposed “select subcommittee,” which would operate under the Judiciary Committee expected to be chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), also gives the panel power to access any information shared with the House Intelligence Committee. That panel typically receives the highest-level classified intelligence and briefings of any committee in Congress.

Both provisions appear to have been added during final negotiations between McCarthy and a band of hardline detractors that briefly denied him the speakership. An earlier version of the proposal made no mention of ongoing criminal investigations or the Intelligence Committee and limited the probe to the FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice.

Vladimir Rumyantzev2

Illustration by Vladimir Rumyantzev

The panel’s expected formation comes as the Justice Department continues to arrest and prosecute hundreds of rioters charged with breaching the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and amid two ongoing criminal investigations connected to former President Donald Trump. Those include the probe of his effort to overturn the 2020 election and his decision to warehouse highly sensitive national security documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate after leaving office.

Both Trump-related probes are now overseen by special counsel Jack Smith, who was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland in November to manage the sensitive grand jury investigations

The subcommittee proposal would permit McCarthy to name 13 members to the panel, including five after consultation with Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries — a structure similar to the Jan. 6 select committee. Pelosi opted to reject two of McCarthy’s picks to that panel, prompting him to withdraw from any participation.

Unlike the Jan. 6 committee, however, the GOP-led probe would be housed under Jordan’s committee. Subpoenas issued by the panel would be authorized by Jordan.

That is just plain terrifying. So Jordan wants to be able to horn in on the investigations of Trump and other insurrectionists–which include Jim Jordan!

Asawin Suebsaeng and Tessa Stuart of Rolling Stone have a scoop on Matt Gaetz’s motive for opposing McCarthy: Sex Trafficking Row Helped Fuel Gaetz’s Hatred for McCarthy.

KEVIN MCCARTHY WAS well aware he was going to lose his bid to become Speaker of the House of Representatives on the first ballot, three people with knowledge of the situation told Rolling Stone. What he was not privately predicting was that the beatings would continue for an entire week. “He knew he was going to get fucked — he just didn’t know they were going to fuck him this many times, or this hard,” explained one congressional aide.

Among the major factors in McCarthy losing more than a dozen speakership ballots, people familiar with the matter say, was the severity of Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz’s enmity toward the Republican leader. Gaetz’s intense and personal distaste for McCarthy has been an open secret in Washington political circles for years, so much so that Gaetz and McCarthy’s colleagues would argue it isn’t even a “secret” at all.

Vladimir Rumyantzev3

Illustration by Vladimir Rumyantzev

But Gaetz’s hatred curdled into something even more powerful after it was revealed in early 2021 that the MAGA congressman was the target of a federal investigation into the sex trafficking of a minor. (No charges were filed against Gaetz, but his “wingman” Joel Greenberg was sentenced to 11 years in prison.) McCarthy, in Gaetz’s opinion, failed to mount a forceful enough defense on his behalf. According to two sources familiar with the matter, Gaetz has been furious at McCarthy for the perceived lack of support ever since — despite the fact that McCarthy did not strip him of any committee assignments during the probe.

The enmity between the two Republicans spilled into open view on the floor of the House during the 14th vote Friday night that McCarthy had bragged would finally put him over the top to secure the speaker’s gavel. Gaetz placed himself at the center of the drama. He skipped his turn in the alphabetical role call vote, setting himself up to vote at the end of the proceeding. With McCarthy needing one more yes vote, Gaetz instead voted “present” — leaving McCarthy with 50 percent of the vote, a hair short of victory. McCarthy strode up to Gaetz on the House floor, and a the foes had a heated exchange that did not change the total. McCarthy again was left hanging. (Gaetz again voted “present” along with the other Never Kevin rebels in the 15th vote that finally gave McCarthy the gavel.)

The original source of Rep. Gaetz’s acute loathing of McCarthy is less clear. Rolling Stone contacted members of Congress, sources on Capitol Hill, and activists in conservative organizations to ask what the root cause was. They all just knew Gaetz hated the House GOP leader. One Republican who knows both Gaetz and McCarthy says they even once asked the latter why Gaetz dislikes him so much. This source recalls McCarthy answering: “I don’t know.”

McCarthy has the Speaker’s gavel now, but there may be more disagreements coming on Monday when the House votes on the rules package that McCarthy agreed to. There are reportedly some McCarthy supporters who aren’t going to support it.

More stories to check out today:

Associated Press: Police: 6-year-old shoots teacher in Virginia classroom.

The New York Times: Shootings Reported at Homes and Offices of 5 New Mexico Democrats.

Associated Press: US appeals court blocks ban on rapid-fire ‘bump stocks.’

NBC News: On Musk’s Twitter, users looking to sell and trade child sex abuse material are still easily found.

Raw Story: Ashli Babbitt’s mother arrested for blocking DC street on Capitol riot anniversary.

NBC News: Conservative leader Matt Schlapp is accused of fondling a male campaign staffer in Georgia.

The Daily Beast: Herschel Walker Staffer: Matt Schlapp ‘Groped’ My Crotch.

Have a nice weekend, Sky Dancers!!


Tuesday Reads: 97 Days Until November 3

Good Morning!!

Trump personal attorney Bill Bar will testify before the House Judiciary Committee today. The hearing will begin around 10:45. I should watch it, but I’m going to spare myself that maddening experience. Megan Mineiro of Courthouse News will be tweeting about it, so I’ll check her timeline for updates.

Barr has released his opening statement. CNN: Barr calls Russia scandal ‘bogus,’ says he acts independently of Trump in blistering opening statement: Barr calls Russia scandal ‘bogus,’ says he acts independently of Trump in blistering opening statement.

In Barr’s prepared remarks, which were provided to CNN by the Justice Department on Monday, the attorney general says he has acted independently of President Donald Trump in the decisions he’s made in several criminal cases he’s handled.

“Ever since I made it clear that I was going to do everything I could to get to the bottom of the grave abuses involved in the bogus ‘Russiagate’ scandal, many of the Democrats on this Committee have attempted to discredit me by conjuring up a narrative that I am simply the President’s factotum who disposes of criminal cases according to his instructions. Judging from the letter inviting me to this hearing, that appears to be your agenda today,” Barr says in his written remarks.

Barr’s testimony on Tuesday is his first before the House Judiciary Committee, where Democrats have accused him of committing numerous abuses. It comes after he did not appear at a hearing before the panel last year and a March date was postponed. Democrats plan to push Barr on his intervention into the prosecutions of two Trump allies, his move last month to oust a prominent and powerful US attorney, and the Justice Department’s use of force against protesters to Barr’s threats to state and local officials over their handling of coronavirus. A Democratic committee counsel told reporters Monday that Democratic lawmakers will seek to paint Barr as repeatedly overruling career staff to serve the President’s interests first.

Barr will also face questions on his role in the administration’s crackdown on the protests across the country that followed George Floyd’s killing in May, including the decision to forcibly disperse a peaceful demonstration at Lafayette Square in June and the dispatching of federal officers to Portland, Oregon, where rioters have clashed with authorities nightly outside a complex of federal buildings.

In his opening statement, Barr said the President “has not attempted to interfere” in the criminal decisions he’s made, which would include lessening the sentencing recommendation for Trump’s longtime friend Roger Stone and to move to dismiss charges against Trump’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn.

He’s lying, of course. Just Security: “He’s Lying.” New Book Reveals Havoc Bill Barr Wrought Inside Congress.

On Tuesday morning, when Attorney General William Barr finally appears before the House Judiciary Committee, a book will be released covering one of Barr’s most controversial and most consequential actions to date: the attorney general’s grossly misleading summary of the Mueller Report.

The book’s author is Ambassador Norman Eisen, who served as special counsel to the Judiciary Committee during the impeachment hearings of Donald J. Trump. His was not simply a ringside seat; Eisen was a key player. That’s why this behind-the-scenes account sheds new light on the history-shaping impact of Barr’s actions.

“He’s lying.” Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler privately told Eisen and other staff as they tried to make sense of Barr’s 4-page summary without the benefit of the Mueller Report itself. The Chairman “saw right through Barr’s fabrications and was blunt about it,” writes Eisen in the book.

Not everyone else did. Former FBI Director James Comey said in a CNN interview at the time that “Bill Barr, our attorney general, deserves the benefit of the doubt.”

Nadler would be proven correct once the Mueller Report was released, but that would be more than three weeks later—a lifetime in American politics. And it would be almost an exact year before a federal court would weigh in. Judge Reggie B. Walton used part of his opinion in March of this year to call out Barr for the attorney general’s “misleading” and “distorted” account of Mueller’s findings.

That was a harsh assessment with added weight due to its legal significance. As Lisa Gilbert observed at Just Security, “To underscore the significance of Judge Walton’s findings: Barr’s summary of the Mueller Report was not simply a lie told to the media or public. It was a statement Barr submitted to Congress.”

More books about Trump’s and Barr’s corrupt behavior are coming. Andrew Weissmann, one of the top prosecutors in the Mueller investigation has a book coming out on September 29. And now a book by Trump FBI nemesis Peter Strzok has been announced. AP: Ex-FBI agent Strzok due out with book about Trump, Russia.

Former FBI counterintelligence agent Peter Strzok, who played a key role in the Russia investigation but whose pejorative text messages about Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign made him a target of the president’s wrath, is releasing a book on his concerns the president could be compromised.

“Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump” is due out Sept. 8, publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books & Media said in a statement to The Associated Press.

The book will offer an insider’s view on some of the most sensational and politically freighted investigations in modern American history, including into whether the 2016 Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to sway the presidential election. Due out two months before the November election, the book adds to the list of first-person accounts from other senior FBI and Justice Department officials during the Trump era.

“Russia has long regarded the United States as its ‘Main Enemy,’ and I spent decades trying to protect our country from their efforts to weaken and undermine us,” Strzok said Tuesday in a statement accompanying the book announcement.

“In this book,” he added, “I use that background to explain how the elevation by President Trump and his collaborators of Trump’s own personal interests over the interests of the country allowed Putin to succeed beyond Stalin’s wildest dreams, and how the national security implications of Putin’s triumph will persist through our next election and beyond.”

Remember when Trump claimed he was invited to throw out the first pitch at a NY Yankees game and later cancelled the appearance because he supposedly is working so hard to defeat the coronavirus pandemic? It turns out the Yankees never actually invited him. The New York Times: Trump Announced, Then Canceled, a Yankees Pitch. Both Came as a Surprise.

An hour before Dr. Anthony S. Fauci threw the first pitch at the season opener between the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals, President Trump stood on the briefing room stage at the White House and declared that he, too, had been invited to throw out his own opening pitch.

“Randy Levine is a great friend of mine from the Yankees,” Mr. Trump, referring to the president of the baseball team, told reporters on Thursday as Dr. Fauci was preparing to take the mound. “And he asked me to throw out the first pitch, and I think I’m doing that on Aug. 15 at Yankee Stadium.”

There was one problem: Mr. Trump had not actually been invited on that day by the Yankees, according to one person with knowledge of Mr. Trump’s schedule. His announcement surprised both Yankees officials and the White House staff.

But Mr. Trump had been so annoyed by Dr. Fauci’s turn in the limelight, an official familiar with his reaction said, that he had directed his aides to call Yankees officials and make good on a longtime standing offer from Mr. Levine to throw out an opening pitch. No date was ever finalized.

Trump just can’t stand it when he isn’t the center of attention. He took a break last night from his “hard work” to retweet vile conspiracy theories that were removed by both Facebookand

The Washington Post: Facebook deleted a viral video full of false coronavirus claims. Then Trump shared it on Twitter.

On Monday evening, Facebook scrubbed from its site a viral video showing a group of doctors making misleading and false claims about the coronavirus pandemic after more than 14 million people had watched it. Hours later, President Trump tweeted out multiple clips of the same video to his 84.2 million followers.

Trump shared the video — which claims that face masks and lockdowns are not needed to stop the disease — as he shared 14 tweets over a half-hour span defending the use of hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug that the president has repeatedly promoted, and attacking Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-diseases expert.

Twitter soon followed Facebook and YouTube in removing the videos, deleting several of the tweets that Trump shared, and even adding a note to its trending topics warning about the potential risks of hydroxychloroquine use….

The video Trump shared Monday night showed a collection of doctors speaking in favor of treating covid-19 patients with the antimalarial drug. The clip focused on the testimony of a woman named Stella Immanuel, who received a medical license in Texas last November, according to state records. The doctor did not return a request for comment.

NBC News: Twitter removes tweet highlighted by Trump falsely claiming COVID-19 ‘cure.’

Twitter removed a tweet that had been retweeted by President Donald Trump that falsely said that there was a cure for the coronavirus.

Late Monday night, Trump retweeted the tweet from an account with the handle “@stella_immanuel” that said: “Covid has cure. America wake up.”

Twitter soon after removed the tweet and replaced it with a gray box that says, “This Tweet is no longer available.”

A cure for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, doesn’t exist and scientists have been working on developing both a range of treatments as well as vaccines. They and the Trump administration are racing to have a vaccine ready by the end of the year….

Trump also retweeted tweets defending the use of the drug hydroxychloroquine, including one that accused Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, of misleading the public by dismissing the drug.

“Doctor” Immanuel has quite a resume. The Daily Beast: Trump’s New Favorite COVID Doctor Believes in Alien DNA, Demon Sperm, and Hydroxychloroquine.

A Houston doctor who praises hydroxychloroquine and says that face masks aren’t necessary to stop transmission of the highly contagious coronavirus has become a star on the right-wing internet, garnering tens of millions of views on Facebook on Monday alone. Donald Trump Jr. declared the video of Stella Immanuel a “must watch,” while Donald Trump himself retweeted the video.

Before Trump and his supporters embrace Immanuel’s medical expertise, though, they should consider other medical claims Immanuel has made—including those about alien DNA and the physical effects of having sex with witches and demons in your dreams.

Immanuel, a pediatrician and a religious minister, has a history of making bizarre claims about medical topics and other issues. She has often claimed that gynecological problems like cysts and endometriosis are in fact caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches.

She alleges alien DNA is currently used in medical treatments, and that scientists are cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious. And, despite appearing in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress on Monday, she has said that the government is run in part not by humans but by “reptilians” and other aliens.

Immanuel gave her viral speech on the steps of the Supreme Court at the “White Coat Summit,” a gathering of a handful of doctors who call themselves America’s Frontline Doctors and dispute the medical consensus on the novel coronavirus. The event was organized by the right-wing group Tea Party Patriots, which is backed by wealthy Republican donors.

Read more at the link.

That’s all from me today. What stories are you following?


Friday Reads

Illustration by Alan Baker

Good Morning!!

Dakinikat has a doctor’s appointment, so I’m filling in for her today. I’m illustrating this post with fantasy animal houses (mostly bunnies), just because.

So what’s happening?

House Democrats are inching toward impeachment hearings. They aren’t going to have much choice, since Trump and Cover-Up General Barr are stonewalling on releasing the full Mueller report along with the underlying evidence.

The New Yorker: House Democrats Debate Impeachment. The article notes that after two years of caution about impeachment from Democratic leaders, even moderate Democrats are now calling for it.

In recent days, however, even more moderate Democrats have begun speaking about impeachment, in response to Trump’s stonewalling of House investigations. “We’re fighting all the subpoenas,” he told reporters last week. “Look, these aren’t like impartial people. The Democrats are trying to win in 2020.” In response, Representative Jamie Raskin, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, told the Times that he is open to a limited impeachment inquiry, adding, “President Trump’s defiance of Congress is far more comprehensive and sweeping than anything Congress experienced during the Watergate period.”

Bunny Dream House by Sandra Steffensen

After Attorney General William Barr refused to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, rejecting the committee’s condition that staff attorneys question him, other House members echoed Raskin’s warning. That morning, on CNN, Representative Ted Lieu said, “If the Trump Administration wants impeachment, they’re doing a good job of pushing Democrats there, because we want to first gather facts to decide if we should impeach. If we can’t gather facts, then we’re going to launch an impeachment.” Of the three articles of impeachment presented against Richard Nixon after Watergate, Lieu noted, the third was contempt of Congress.

For now, Democrats are pursuing a strategy that, in practice, could easily turn out to be the first, informal phase of an impeachment inquiry. They’re investigating, but without formally signalling that they believe Trump committed impeachable offenses. When I spoke to several members of the House Judiciary Committee last week, none ruled out the possibility of impeachment. “That’s another possible reasonable course,” Representative Madeleine Dean said. “I happen to like the course we’re on better, and here’s why. I have several key takeaways from the Mueller report that, for me, demand answers to questions. So I’d rather not pre-frame it with ‘We’re doing it in order to impeach or with the hope of impeaching.’ ”

Read more at the link.

Yesterday, Gerry Nadler gave a strong speech at the Judiciary Committee hearing that Barr was supposed to attend. I hope you’ll listen to it.

Nadler has a long history with Trump in New York, and I don’t think he is going to put up with Trump’s and Barr’s obstruction much longer. Yesterday we learned that his committee is in direct talks with Robert Mueller about testifying. The Hill reports:

Bunny tree house

Special counsel Robert Mueller‘s team is in direct talks with the House Judiciary Committee about whether he will testify before Congress, according to multiple reports.

NBC News and ABC News reported that the committee is now speaking with Mueller’s team when it was previously dealing with the Justice Department. NBC reports that a hearing has not been finalized and a date was not set.

That’s good news. It’s about time Mueller started speaking out. He really should have done so sooner.

CNN: Mueller’s silence let Trump supporters fill the void.

All his life, the Vietnam War Marine veteran has lived out a code of discreet personal values — elevating government service, the rule of law and respect for the chain of command.

But now, the uproar triggered in the wake of Mueller’s Russia investigation raises the question of whether his time-honored methods have left him vulnerable to exploitation in a new political era of hyper-partisanship and self-aggrandizing.

And the discord is increasing calls for Mueller to break his silence in the most public way — in hearings being demanded by House Democrats, which would become one of the most hotly anticipated congressional appearances in years.

Pookie house, by Ivy Wallace

Mueller’s habitual reticence earned him a reputation for integrity that made him the ideal choice for the radioactive mission of investigating a sitting president’s campaign.
But in retrospect, it let others — who do not necessarily follow his blueprint for life — tell his story themselves.

Ultimately, the special counsel’s absence allowed Attorney General William Barr to step in and provide his own interpretation of Mueller’s report — with which Mueller now differs.
That left the long-held assumption that Mueller’s words in his report would speak for themselves undermined — to the political advantage of President Donald Trump, who is claiming blanket exoneration that the report does not confer.

Read the rest at CNN.

Dahlia Lithwick at Slate: Mueller Can’t Get Away With Silence Anymore. The gist:

If Attorney General William Barr’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday demonstrated anything, it was that a deep rupture has yawned open between these two old friends and Washington lifers. It wasn’t just that Barr denigrated Mueller as a “political appointee” or dismissed his March 27 letter as “snitty,” and thus clearly the work of underlings. It wasn’t just that Barr implied that Mueller was either too timid or too incompetent to come to a conclusion on the question of whether Donald Trump had obstructed justice. And it wasn’t just that Barr suggested that since the entire Mueller probe had been proven to be “based on false accusations,” it was illegitimate, which certainly suggests that Mueller devoted two long years to a—you guessed it—witch hunt. Presumably, from now on, if the president decides any legal investigation is “based on false accusations,” he can just go ahead and impede it, a framing that makes a hash of everything Mueller sought to do. When pressed Wednesday on Mueller’s bona fides, Barr snapped that “Bob Mueller is the equivalent of a U.S. Attorney. … His work concluded when he sent his report to the attorney general. At that point, it was my baby.” This is not how you talk about a colleague you respect.

Secret World of Rabbits Above and Below, by Vince Desjardins

But it’s not just that. At the most basic level, Barr has distorted Mueller’s actual work product, including his polite and confidential and lawyerly letter asking (twice) that Barr correct his inaccurate summary of Mueller’s careful report. It’s a letter that Wired’s Garrett Graff, who wrote a book about Mueller, described thusly: “I’ve read just about every word Bob Mueller has ever said publicly or published. He’s written precisely one letter like the angry one he sent to Barr: It excoriated Scotland for letting the Pan Am 103 bomber out of prison.”

Read the whole thing at Slate.

Last night, Rachel Maddow made an argument for what I’ve been saying all along. Cover-Up General Barr effectively fired Mueller for Trump. He likely shut down the investigation, with the help of Rod Rosenstein. Here’s Rachel’s take on it, in case you missed it.

In other news, The media is vetting Bernie Sanders this time. The Washington Post has a big story on Bernie’s honeymoon in the Soviet Union: Inside Bernie Sanders’s 1988 10-day ‘honeymoon’ in the Soviet Union: Inside Bernie Sanders’s 1988 10-day ‘honeymoon’ in the Soviet Union.

Bernie Sanders was bare-chested, towel-draped, sitting at a table lined with vodka bottles, as he sang “This Land Is Your Land” to his hosts in the Soviet Union in the spring of 1988.

The just-married socialist mayor from Vermont was on what he called “a very strange honeymoon,” an official 10-day visit to the communist country, and he was enthralled with the hospitality and the lessons that could be brought home.

“Let’s take the strengths of both systems,” he said upon completing the trip. “Let’s learn from each other.”

The Soviet sojourn has long been an extraordinary, if little understood, chapter in Sanders lore. He has for years used it to help explain his views about foreign policy, citing it as recently as last month….

As he stood on Soviet soil, Sanders, then 46 years old, criticized the cost of housing and health care in the United States, while lauding the lower prices — but not the quality — of that available in the Soviet Union. Then, at a banquet attended by about 100 people, Sanders blasted the way the United States had intervened in other countries, stunning one of those who had accompanied him.

“I got really upset and walked out,” said David F. Kelley, who had helped arrange the trip and was the only Republican in Sanders’s entourage. “When you are a critic of your country, you can say anything you want on home soil. At that point, the Cold War wasn’t over, the arms race wasn’t over, and I just wasn’t comfortable with it.”

I imagine Trump will have fun with that.

More stories to check out, links only:

Bloomberg: Someone Did Get to Look at Trump’s Tax Returns: Deutsche Bankers.

The Washington Post: Trump is already set to use the government to destroy the Democratic nominee.

Heather Digby Parton at Raw Story: Will Trump order Bill Barr to sabotage Joe Biden?

The New York Times: The Coming Subpoena Fights Between Trump and Congress, Explained.

The Washington Post: Watergate had the Nixon tapes. Mueller had Annie Donaldson’s notes.

Media Matters: Study: Major media outlets’ Twitter accounts amplify false Trump claims on average 19 times a day.

The New York Times: Woody Allen Pitched a Memoir. Publishers Weren’t Interested.

Vanity Fair: Apparently, No One Wants Woody Allen’s New Memoir.

The Daily Beast: Mark Halperin Enlists Pals Joe Scarborough, Mika Brzezinski, and Michael Smerconish to Rehab His Career After Sexual Misconduct Scandal.

So . . . what else is happening? What stories have you been following?